Charles Leclerc’s nightmare start to 2023 continues with the Ferrari star set to take a 10-place grid penalty for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
The Formula One season continues this weekend at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit with Max Verstappen and Red Bull expected to continue their winning ways after dominating the opening race in Bahrain.
Leclerc initially emerged as the Red Bull’s closest challenger after qualifying third and briefly tussling with Sergio Perez, and looked set to take the final podium in Sakhir.
However, with just 18 laps remaining the Monegasque driver was forced to retire after his Ferrari SF-23 suffered an engine failure, allowing Aston Martin’s Fernando
The exact cause of the problem was not known at the time but team principal Frederic Vasseur has since confirmed that it was the Energy Store and Control Electronics unit, saying: ‘On Sunday, we had two different issues.
‘The first one was on the Sunday morning, when we did the fire up, and the second one was in the race. Unfortunately, it was two times the control unit, the ECU.
‘It’s something that we never experienced in the past. I hope now it’s under control, but we have a deep analysis on this. Unfortunately, we’ll have to take the penalty in Jeddah, because we have only a pool of two control units for the season.’
As Vasseur correctly states teams are only permitted to use two ECUs per season and with Leclerc already on his third he has been handed a 10-place grid penalty for Saudi Arabia.
All hope is not lost though, as while Jeddah is a street circuit overtaking is still very much doable on the track’s long straights.
Nevertheless, it is a huge blow for Leclerc who went into 2023 with the ambition of becoming Ferrari’s first title winner since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007 but will now surely slip further behind Verstappen in the standings.
It also a painful moment for the Scuderia who thought they had fixed the reliability problems that plagued their 2022 campaign, with Leclerc retiring from last year’s races in Spain and Azerbaijan due to technical issues.
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